Badass Scientist of the Week: Dr. Ellen Ochoa
Ellen Ochoa (1958—) is an astronaut, engineer and musician best known as the world’s first Hispanic female astronaut. Born in Los Angeles, Ochoa completed her undergraduate degree in physics at San Diego State University in 1975, then went on to achieve her Masters and PhD at Stanford University in electrical engineering. She’s a pioneer of spacecraft technology—she researched optical systems for automated space exploration at the NASA Ames Research Center, and she has co-invented an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method to remove noise from images. In 1990, she was selected by NASA as a mission specialist and flight engineer, and served on her first space flight in 1993: a nine-day mission on the shuttle Discovery, during which the crew conducted atmospheric and solar studies, and Ochoa operated a research satellite in the study of the sun. Ochoa went on to undertake four space flights in total, logging over 950 hours in space. Her assignments while in the Astronaut Office included flight software, computer hardware development, and robotics development, and her awards include NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal (1997), Outstanding Leadership Medal (1995) and Space Flight Medals (2002, 1999, 1994, 1993). Aside from being an astronaut, Ochoa is also a classical flutist and a private pilot, and she currently lives in Texas with her husband and two children, where she serves as Director of Flight Crew Operations at Johnson Space Center, Houston.